Dem: TSA behavior detection program allows 'racial profiling'

The Transportation Security Administration's behavior detection program allows for racial profiling at airport security, a key Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee is alleging. 

Rep. Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.), the ranking Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, wrote a letter to TSA Administrator John Pistole after reports that Mexican passengers were targeted by TSA at airports in Honolulu, Hawaii and Newark, N.J. 

The officers, who Thompson said were part of TSA's Screening of Passengers by Observation Technique (SPOT) program, were engaging in racial profiling, the Mississippi lawmaker said. 

"According to the news report, the TSOs, known to their fellow employees as the 'Mexicutioners' engaged in the pursuit of Mexican passengers through the SPOT program in an effort to appear 'highly productive' to their supervising managers," he wrote in the letter, which is dated Nov. 22. 

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"These allegations have not only underscored my original concerns regarding the scientific validity of the SPOT program but have led me to believe that serious management challenges remain which exacerbate my initial misgivings about the program's legitimacy," he continued. "These incidents and the failure of both training and supervision to prevent the practice of racial profiling are clear indications that more research, evaluation and testing must be completed before behavior detection can be successfully integrated at aviation security checkpoints."

TSA has been touting it's 'risk-based' security techniques as a way to improve passengers airport security experiences. The agency has caught fire for its previous techniques like pat-down hand searches and X-ray machines.